Tools #3: What the Hell is Going On!

Continuing the thread of re-coaching myself to think –

Today’s Lesson – How to look at a problem through a set of lenses (hats in this case) one at a time and focus.

The tool of the week is – Cynefin Framework developed by Dave Snowden in 1999

The goal is to help make sense of a situation to help guide a response.

First: Which domain are you in (see diagram below), then the action based on the characteristics

Clear – typically process-oriented situations and problems. Domain of “known knowns”. Approach: sense–categorize–respond. Understand the situation (sense), categorize it, then respond by applying a best-practice solution.

Complicated – typically has multiple right answers. Domain of “known unknowns”. Approach: sense-analyze-respond. Because analysis is needed they require expert knowledge. Experts should assess the situation, investigate possible options and choose a course of action.

Complex – domain of “unknown unknowns”. Approach: probe-sense-respond. we don’t yet know enough about it. It’s not clear what needs to be answered in the first place. Experiment first, learn about the problem. Then sense what you’re dealing with and respond appropriately. The goal should be to understand enough so that the problem or situation moves to the complicated domain where it’s easier to deal with.

Chaotic – just out of control. Approach: act-sense-respond. “First act to establish some stability, to contain the situation. Only then assess the situation and work on bringing enough order to it to move it into the complex domain.” One benefit is that you can try weird and wild stuff because the pain of the chaos creates the chance to solve it in any way possible.

Don’t know which one? You’re in “Disorder” – The best place to start is to break-up into small parts and try to then put them into each bucket above.

Questions to help determine the domain you’re in:

  • Do you know what causes the situation?
  • Is the situation under control?
  • How much do you know about it?
  • Does solving it require expert knowledge?

All credit for the above belongs to

Tools #2: All the Hats

Continuing the thread of re-coaching myself to think –

Today’s Lesson – How to look at a problem through a set of lenses (hats in this case) one at a time and focus.

The Untool of the week is –

Based on the book Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono –

Illustration of the Six Thinking Hats: Yellow for positivity, Green for creativity, Red for emotions, White for data, Black for negativity and Blue for control.


Trying to picture how this will actually work. I’m not great at compartmentalizing. Or maybe I could… starting with the Green Hat, then having people looking at the ideas in phases?

Or is the focus on One big idea, then putting on the Black Hat, then using the Green Hat to work around the Black Hat’s issues, and then trying to find the viable solution using Yellow, Red, White, Blue?

That could be interesting. My brain wonders quite a bit so I could see myself constantly trying to put all the hats on at once, but that’s not helpful to anyone. Much like mindfulness, being able to focus with a specific goal in mind is a muscle that I just need to flex more. But that’s where the Blue hat comes in: “🔵 Blue hat is for controlling the process. Especially in meetings, it’s good to be able to step in when there’s no progress and enable the group to move forward (e.g. by shifting the thinking or discussion to a different hat/perspective).”

Key Takeaway: We all need facilitators and Blue Hat

My daughter’s favorite video/music is a great fit for this one.

Tools #1: Dogs and Tools

Trying to learn as an adult is so hard. You already have so much of your neural network built and weighted that you get pulled back into old patterns. I mean the saying goes you can’t teach an ol’ dog new tricks. But, I think a better version is you can’t teach an ol’ dog new ways of performing old tricks that treated them well so far and got them to where they needed to go. That’s too long I guess.

I stumbled across this site: that is all about trying out different mental frameworks. My goal is to read through one of these each week and truly digest it, get into the noggin, and hopefully, it will push this ol’ dog to be some __% better.

What’s funny is that I’ve spent the better part of 10yrs facilitating innovation sessions for groups of 20+ people specifically around breaking your thinking. It’s just really hard to do this for yourself. Turns out people need people.

Old Ignite Workshops

Untool – Conflict Resolution Diagram

  • They reference this was pulled from the “Theory of Constraints” by Eliyahu Goldratt
  • The goal of this tool (aka “Evaporating Cloud”) is to be used when a conflict seems impossible.
  • There are three parts worked in the following order:
    • Demands/proposals of the opposing sides: these are usually mutually exclusive which is what creates the conflict.
      • Ask: What does the other side want to do? What do I want to do?
    • Underlying needs or requirements of both sides
      • Ask: What needs are satisfied by the proposal of each side?
    • Shared goal or objective that’s behind the needs
      • Ask: What will be achieved by meeting the needs of both sides?
      • This is important to come to a shared understanding as you become part of the same team, but you happen to be approaching it differently.
  • Now that the above is taken care of, you’ll need to discuss the assumptions that are behind the original approaches. This will most likely uncover why the approaches are at odds.
  • Ending – now you build the solution together with a focus on the shared vision/goal.

This reminds me of a reverse flow Opportunity Solution Tree that Teresa Torres talks about

Remember: focus on the outcomes and let that help dictate the path…hopefully a path takes into account kindness 😀